With the story of Eion Bailey’s August/Pinocchio largely unexplored after he began turning back into wood, we were left wondering exactly what became of everyone’s favorite non-real boy (apparently he’s been hiding out in an abandoned VW-like trailer in the middle of the forest.) While “Selfless, Brave and True” was one of the weakest episode of the season so far, the last hour before a 3-week hiatus did finally give us some insight into August’s past life, as well as the life of mysterious Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green.) We’ve wondered from the beginning if Neal’s fiancée is more than what she seems, and this episode provided some much needed back story that helped us piece together the many elements that I imagine will be necessary to know given where the story of Once is headed in its second season end game.

In Hong Kong flashbacks, we met August as he was coming to terms with the fact that his past was catching up to him – literally. With a leg turning to wood that only he could see (remember, you can only see his condition if you believe in magic or if you are magic yourself) he was taken to a man known as “The Dragon,” a healer-type who seemed to be magical himself – that is, he claimed that he could both see August’s wooden leg and that he could cure him. The catch? It would cost him a personal object, as well as a lot of money that August clearly didn’t have. Enter Tamara, who was in town searching for a cure of her own (cancer.) And while the pairing between August and Tamara initially seemed a bit out of the blue, the shared backstory provided a chemistry that kept the otherwise slow-moving hour interesting. I’m not sure if we’ll get any other insight on The Dragon, whose character seemed like a bit of a throwaway that could have been more interesting had the right parts of the story been fleshed out. But it certainly would be interesting to know if he had any other run-ins with magical people who were living in the “real world.”

Despite the fact that Tamara adamantly told Neal that she didn’t believe his fairytale stories, we soon learned that she very much does know Storybrooke – and the magic that’s contained in it. Apparently Tamara was searching for magic and those that do it before even crossing paths with August, and given the lengths she was going to obtain her information (lying about having cancer, killing The Dragon), I was led to wonder exactly how long she’s been in cahoots with Greg. Hats off to anyone who called Tamara being the cryptic “Her” that Greg has been interacting with ever since he crashed into Storybrooke – though I remain confused as to why the two were working together in the first place, unless Greg recruited her to help with the search for his father. I imagine a further explanation will be coming at some point in the final four episodes, especially since it remains to be seen whether the set-up of events that brought Neal and Tamara together were orchestrated by Tamara just so she could get herself to Storybrooke. In the words of Emma - fate, indeed.

According to The Dragon, August’s transformation was occurring because he wasn’t selfless, brave or true – in essence, he had broken the virtues that allowed him to be a real boy by stealing Tamara’s money and lying to those he loved. With his return to Storybrooke at the end of the episode following the realization that Tamara had manipulated him to leave based on her own agenda, he gave in to both redemption and apology, thus allowing the Blue Fairy to work her magic after he met his end via Tamara’s taser-like stun gun. It was a treat to see Eion Bailey again (despite being in a mostly wooden state) and I would be lying to say I’m not sad that we’ve apparently seen the last of Pinocchio – at least in present day.

In a plot line that I wish had gotten slightly more play, Regina boldly confronted Greg, showing him the lanyard and admitting that she knew he was Owen – and also that she had no idea where his father was. Another interesting revelation that I hope we get more insight on before the end of the season, especially since it seems Greg and Tamara are sticking around to make a bit of a scene. Given the fact that we spent such a large amount of time touching on the fact that Regina’s relationship with Owen had been so instrumental to her character, I wish we had spent more time fleshing out the two’s reconciliation – if nothing else so we could have seen Parrilla act the hell out of that exchange like she’s proven she can do all season.

While Mary Margaret continued to grapple with the realization of her blackening heart and loss of pure good, she also continued to dig herself deeper into the self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to be redeemed or forgiven. It’s interesting to note how she went out of her way to convince a hiding-out August that he could change despite his past transgressions, yet like most everyone who finds it easy to give advice to everyone but themselves, the once “fairest of them all” was unable to forgive herself for he own sins. The moment helped save most of what was an otherwise weak outing, and as with Regina and Greg, I wish this was something that had been slightly more explored - but since we did spend much of the past few weeks focusing on Snow’s life, I suppose I can let that slide.

Final Thoughts:

Anyone else get LOST vibes with that opening flashback scene? I swore for a moment that we had time traveled back to the days of Jack’s infamous tattoos.

I loved the creative touch of symbolism behind August’s necklace – not only the whale pendant, but also the fact that the cord was part of what Gepetto had used to create him.

Awkward family dinner, party of four? Emma and Neal’s bagel breakfast with Tamara and Henry may have one-upped even the most squirm-worthy Charming family scenario.

What did you think of the episode? What are you expecting in the final four hours? Sound off below!